Click here to learn more!
With this psalm we come to a new series of psalms. In Psalms 94-101 we have a review to the time of the great tribulation, just before the appearing of Christ. It is the time when the antichrist is king in Israel, the Jewish temple is rebuilt, and believing Jews are persecuted. The remnant suffers greatly from injustice during the reign of the antichrist. They cry out to the LORD for help. Psalm 94 puts into words the feelings of this faithful remnant.
The Lord Jesus describes this situation in Luke 18 in the parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-Ruth :). Psalm 94 specifically describes the widow’s request for justice to be done to her (Luke 18:3).
This psalm was sung – according to Jewish tradition – by the priests while Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers were busy destroying the temple.
Call to Render Recompense
The psalmist cries out to the “God of vengeance” (Psalms 94:1). By “vengeance” we should not think of angry, bitter feelings but of a hunger and thirst for justice (Matthew 5:6; Revelation 6:9-2 Samuel :). Justice means that God must repay the evil deeds of the enemy in order to redeem His people (Psalms 18:47-Galatians :). The Hebrew word for vengeance, naqam, means an action in which the victim is protected and the perpetrators are punished. The name “God of vengeance [or: retribution]” occurs twice in this verse to underline it.
The call to the God of vengeance involves asking God to avenge all injustice. It is not a one-time call, but a constant one (cf. Luke 18:1; Luke 18:7). That God is the God of vengeance also implies that He is the Only One Who has the right to exercise vengeance and no one else (Deuteronomy 32:35; Nahum 1:2; Romans 12:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:6). He can, however, delegate that vengeance, setting the boundaries for it (Numbers 35:19-Lamentations :; Joshua 20:5; 2 Kings 9:7; Romans 13:4).
The call for vengeance – revenge in the sense of retribution – is appropriate for the God-fearing Jew (cf. Jeremiah 11:20; Revelation 6:9-1 Kings :). The vengeance of God is the exercise of justice over the injustice that the wicked have done to God and His people. The psalmist calls that God “LORD”, appealing to God’s faithfulness to His covenant with His people Israel. For us who live in the age of grace, we will pray for those who wrong us (Matthew 5:44; Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60; Romans 12:14; 1 Corinthians 4:12).
The psalmist knows that it is not for him to exercise vengeance, but only for God to do so (cf. 1 Samuel 24:13). Therefore, he asks Him. Nor does he seek satisfaction for the injustice suffered, but because vengeance paves the way for the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. The request of the remnant to “shine forth” is the request to send the Messiah to deliver them from their enemies (Psalms 80:1-Leviticus :; cf. Deuteronomy 33:2). In the return to earth of His Son, the Messiah Jesus, God will appear shining.
Then the psalmist calls God “Judge of the earth” (Psalms 94:2; Genesis 18:25). The whole earth is under His authority. The “proud” have had their way for too long. Proudness is the sin of the devil (1 Timothy 3:6). The antichrist, called the wicked, is prideful (Psalms 10:2) by exalting himself to a god (2 Thessalonians 2:4). In the pride of Herod we see a type of the pride of the antichrist (Acts 12:22-Isaiah :). The proud and wicked in Psalms 94:2-Leviticus : refer to the antichrist and his followers.
It is high time for the Judge to exalt Himself, to rise up, to show His judicial majesty and “render recompense”. The proud have all along been pretending to be ‘judge of the earth’, denying God (see the explanation at Psalm 82:1). This evil has its own ‘reward’ and that is the judgment of God.
That God will act is not a question for the psalmist. But when will He do so (Psalms 94:3)? “How long” will God tolerate the wicked going about their business undisturbed (cf. Psalms 17:9-2 Chronicles :; Psalms 92:7)? It seems as if there is no end to their proud behavior. How long will He just sit and watch? They have all the fun in the world and God does not call a halt to them. How often do we have that thought too?
There is reason enough to give them the deserved reward of judgment. The psalmist points out to God a number of things. First, he points to their mouths. Their mouths “pour forth [words], they speak arrogantly” (Psalms 94:4; cf. Proverbs 15:2; Proverbs 15:28). They boast of the injustice they do, which allows them to afford the luxurious life they live (Psalms 73:3-2 Kings :).
He lists some of the acts of injustice they do and points them out to the “LORD”.
1. “They crush Your people” (Psalms 94:5; cf. Matthew 24:9-Song of Solomon :). The wicked are violating the people who are His, the people He has chosen to be His people. They crush them, trample them underfoot, make them into nothing. And yet they are His people, the people of whom He is King. What king does not stand up for His people?
2. They “afflict Your heritage”. The wicked take away freedom from the LORD’s heritage, from what belongs to Him. A Jew’s possessions, such as the land, are the heritage of the LORD (Leviticus 25:23). “They”, that is prophetically the antichrist and his followers, are oppressing those whom He has delivered from bondage to be His heritage. Why does He allow this to happen without intervening?
3. And surely He must also see what the wicked do to “the widow and the stranger” and the “orphans”: they slay and murder them (Psalms 94:6). These crimes prove a special heartlessness and cruelty. The widow, stranger and orphan are extremely vulnerable people. They often have little more than their lives. In the face of them, the wicked prove that they are not only out to increase their possessions, but that they act out of murderous lust.
In this light, what James writes prophetically about them in his letter is appealing: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of [our] God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27). It is not a call to visit them for a chat, but to visit them in view of their needs.
The psalmist’s vexing question in connection with this is: where is the LORD’s care for these defenseless people? After all, He has specifically guaranteed Himself for them (Deuteronomy 10:17-Job :; Psalms 68:5). However, He seems to be indifferent to what is being done to His people, His property, and the vulnerable groups of people. The wicked can go about their business without any fear of God’s judgment.
Are those wicked people right, then, when they say in their conceit: “The LORD does not see, nor does the God of Jacob pay heed” (Psalms 94:7; cf. Psalms 73:11)? That the wicked can go about their business undisturbed seems to confirm their words. What can the God-fearing object to this? He does not understand how God can allow this, knowing that God will still uphold His honor. He cannot reconcile this.
In the age of grace in which we live, “he who now restrains” (2 Thessalonians 2:7), that is the Holy Spirit, is still present to stop the full revelation of evil. When soon the church is taken up, the Holy Spirit also no longer dwells on earth. Then evil will be able to run rampant. During that time, the remnant of Israel will be severely persecuted by their own king, the antichrist. It can be compared to David who was persecuted by Saul and later by Absalom.
The LORD Knows Man
The psalmist, the God-fearing, has asked God His questions, questions with which he struggles. Now he addresses the “senseless among the people” and the “stupid ones” (Psalms 94:8; Psalms 92:7). The people to whom the psalmist is speaking are not using their minds; they are “senseless”. The Hebrew word for senseless, ba’ar, means unwise and boorish. The word can also be translated ‘brute’ (Ezekiel 21:31). In doing so, they are foolish, for they say by their way of life that there is no God. These people are not atheists; they do not deny the existence of God, but they have deliberately shut Him out of their lives. They refuse any interference from Him in their lives.
How long will it be before they become understanding? They still can if they pay attention to what he is going to say, if they take it to heart (cf. Isaiah 58:1-2 Kings :). What he is about to say has undiminished force for all mankind, even today!
They must be well aware that God is present in everything they say, do and think. He leaves no doubt about that (cf. Exodus 2:24-Lamentations :). He begins with God as the Planter of the ear (Psalms 94:9; cf. Psalms 115:3-Ruth :). He planted the ear, reminiscent of digging a hole in the ground to put a plant in it. Thus God made a hole on the side of the head to put in it an ear, that is, the ability to hear.
His question: “He who planted the ear, does He not hear?”, concerns all the words they spoke haughtily. The question means that He naturally hears all their words. He Who gives man the ability to hear is the all-hearing God. All that man has and can do are attributes of God which He has given him and which He Himself possesses in an infinitely higher degree.
The same is true of seeing. The question: “He who formed the eye, does He not see?”, concerns all the injustice they do. Of course He, the Former of the eye, sees that. He has artfully formed the eye as a potter artfully forms a pot. The eye is an artifact of God in which His skill and wisdom are expressed. His eyes see all that all the eyes of all men see. Nothing escapes Him from what they do (2 Chronicles 16:9).
God is not only the Planter of the ear and the Former of the eye of individual man. He is also the Chastener of “the nations” (Psalms 94:10). He also controls and checks the nations. He hears their wicked cries and perceives them with His eyes (Genesis 18:20-Ecclesiastes :). They are punished by Him because of their rebellion against Him.
He can do this, for example, through natural disasters or epidemics – such as the current Covid-19 pandemic – which are simultaneously a call to repentance (Isaiah 55:6-Judges :). By doing so, He shows that He is above the nations of the earth. It is His method by which He “teaches man knowledge”. He is the great Teacher Who teaches man about Who He is and who man himself is. He is the Omniscient.
The LORD hears all the words of man. He sees all the deeds of man. Words and deeds are externally perceptible. But it goes even deeper. “The LORD knows” also the hidden “thoughts of man” (Psalms 94:11; Matthew 9:3-Numbers :). This is connected to the previous verse. He Who imparts knowledge to man is the Knower of all that man thinks, what is in His heart (Acts 1:24).
With His knowledge, He also gives His assessment of all that man devises. “They are a [mere] breath”, that’s all He says about it. What people can be deeply impressed by God sweeps off the table with one swing. That is how little all their intellectual babbling represents. Breath, in Hebrew hebel, means without substance, vain, insignificant, nonsensical. The book of Ecclesiastes describes in detail the meaning of this word through a large number of examples.
This verse is quoted by Paul to show the value that man’s wisdom has in God’s sight (1 Corinthians 3:20). He thereby makes it clear to the Corinthians, who are impressed with worldly wisdom, that the deliberations of men, even of the wise, are without substance, volatile.
Chastening, Teaching and Relief
The believing remnant pronounces it “blessed” on “the man whom You chasten, O LORD” (Psalms 94:12). This is a different chastening than the chastening given to the nations. It is given in general terms because it is of general application. This chastening is the portion of the God-fearing: “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines [or: chastens], and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6). God gives that discipline, “so that we may share His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). It is a necessary chastening given for this purpose.
Whoever undergoes this chastening is not alienated from God as a result, but rather driven out to Him. Such a person is taught by God from His law. It makes someone willing to accept this teaching. He will thereby grow in the knowledge of God and of His ways with him. This leads to the result described in the next verse.
Those who appreciate the LORD’s chastening receive from Him “relief from the days of adversity” (Psalms 94:13). The days of adversity are the days of the great tribulation that will come upon the people of God, and especially the believers among them, through “the wicked”, the antichrist. His reign will come to an end (Revelation 19:20), for a pit will be dug for him.
It does not say who dug the pit. Possibly the following applies to him, as it did to Haman at the time: “He who digs a pit will fall into it” (Proverbs 26:27; cf. Jeremiah 18:20). That pit is his grave. As soon as it is dug, his exercise of power is over. That is what the God-fearing confidently looks forward to in the time of the great tribulation with peace in his heart.
If we learn to bow under the chastening of God, it will give us peace during the times when we are overwhelmed by difficulties that people put on us. We then experience “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). Then we know that the difficulties will end one day. For us, that is not so much the death of the wicked, but the coming of the Lord to take us to Himself. This view keeps us from becoming impatient, lest we think that God does not care about our difficulties.
The LORD Helps
It is clear to faith that “the LORD will not abandon His people” (Psalms 94:14; cf. Romans 11:1), even though it appears that they are in the power of the wicked (Psalms 94:5). He remains faithful. The assurance of this is a comfort in the midst of distress. With the same assurance of faith, the psalmist says that the LORD will not “forsake His inheritance”. His property is His inheritance, which is His precious possession (Exodus 19:5). Knowing that we are precious to Him quiets the mind.
This comforting assurance flows from the knowledge that “judgment will again be righteous” (Psalms 94:15). Now the judgment pronounced by men and carried out by sin is unjust. That it is unjust now we see in the clearest way in Pilate’s judgment of the Lord Jesus. Pilate passes the most unjust judgment ever. In him and Christ we see the greatest possible contrast between judgment and justice.
When Christ reigns, “judgment will again be righteous” (cf. Isaiah 1:25-Ezekiel :). In Him, judgment and righteousness are in perfect harmony with each other. To that time the God-fearing looks forward. When Christ executes His judgments, He does so completely righteously. No one will dispute that, and “all the upright in heart will follow it”. What they have always believed in their hearts, they will then speak out loud and clear: there is a God Who does justice on earth.
The psalmist, the upright in heart, the God-fearing, expresses the question of who will “stand up for me against evildoers?” (Psalms 94:16). It is a question that arises from the circumstances he has described in the first part of the psalm (Psalms 94:3-Joshua :). The same is true of the question: “Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness?” Then he expressed his faith in God Who hears all and Who will not forsake His people or forsake His inheritance. He will repay injustice (Psalms 94:1).
He also experienced this during the time when God’s people and inheritance were trampled and oppressed. There was no one to stand up for him against the evildoers and committers of unrighteous. But the LORD was there. He was his Helper and helped him through it. If He had not been his “help”, he “would soon have dwelt in [the abode of] silence” that is in the grave (Psalms 94:17). Then he would not have been able to say a word, for he would have “dwelt in silence”, that is, he would be dead (Psalms 115:17).
He has been at the end of his strength. His foot has slipped (Psalms 94:18). This is what he said to the LORD. And the LORD has helped him. He sustained him with His mercy. Lovingkindness here again is the assurance of God’s faithfulness to His covenant. That faithfulness for us and for the believing remnant is based on the blood of the new covenant. The fact that Christ was raised from the dead gives us the firm assurance that God is for us (Romans 4:24-Lamentations :; Romans 8:31).
The LORD has given him the consciousness that He loves him, in spite of the trampling and oppression or just during the trampling and oppression. The lovingkindness of God is felt at its deepest when circumstances are full of misery. He does not take away the misery, but comes with His lovingkindness to sustain us (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7-1 Samuel :).
In a time of severe and hopeless suffering, the thoughts of a believer multiply within him (Psalms 94:19). He asks himself and God countless questions, questions that torment him, to which there is no answer. He can’t figure it out. All these questions cause great inner turmoil. Outwardly there is strife, inwardly there is fear (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:5). Then there are God’s consolations. God refreshes the soul of the struggling believer by His presence. The Hebrew word for consolation, naham, means ‘to sigh deeply with relief’.
When the struggling soul is led to look away from himself and his problems and to turn his heart to God, the need has not disappeared, but God has joined in it. This can sometimes be a lengthy process. Nevertheless, the believer will finally end up with God. Then when he looks back on that dark period in his life, he will testify that he got through that period because God was his Helper.
Surely it cannot be that God allied with the ungodly judges (Psalms 94:20)? This is the question the troubled God-fearing remnant is asking in the time of the great tribulation when the antichrist reigns. He knows that God rules. What he sees is that evil rules. But “a throne of destruction” – that is, the throne of the antichrist – has not made an alliance with God, has it? After all, God does not intervene. Surely God will not ally Himself to “one which devises mischief by decree”, who enacts a law that brings calamity upon His people?
This throne of destruction and the decree which devises mischief are directed “against the life of the righteous” (Psalms 94:21). The antichrist and his followers conspire against him. Their legislation really does establish mischief, for they “condemn the innocent to death”. They are out for the blood of the innocent righteous and for this they modify the legislation and pervert the law.
The LORD Is a Stronghold
The righteous man did have to flee from the enemy, but he found in “the LORD” his “stronghold” (Psalms 94:22; cf. Psalms 46:7; Psalms 46:11). The “stronghold” can also be translated “high quarters”. Safety is found in an exalted place and that is the LORD Himself.
This is the result of all the enemy’s attempts to make life impossible for the righteous. The trust in the LORD is strengthened by it. The personal bond with God, “my God”, becomes closer because of it. Through suffering, the heart comes into closer fellowship with Him. He is “a rock”, unshakable, and “my refuge”, a hiding place.
In that security the believer comes to rest (cf. Psalms 3:6). He surrenders those who wrong him into the hands of God. The wicked will suffer the fate they sought to inflict on the faithful (Psalms 94:23). It will return upon their heads. God will put them to death in the wickedness they do. He will do this initially through His disciplinary rod, Assyria (Isaiah 10:5). This is how they will experience what they have sought to do to the righteous. This is how it will go: “The LORD our God will destroy them” (cf. Acts 12:1-Numbers :; Acts 12:21-Isaiah :; Luke 18:7-Ruth :).
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 94". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany